Friday, August 23, 2013


(Over time, ponds may dry up, but they don't disappear. Healing takes time.)

Sometimes people share with me heartbreaking incidents of how they lost their loved one. There are those who lost their son or daughter, a sibling or a parent untimely or unexpectedly. Many a time, it is so gut-wrenching that even as an objective listener my eyes well up. The shock, the trauma, the pain is unbearable for them, almost like it would never heal. They ask me what can they do to get over the pain. Let me share with you how I see it.

Death is inevitable. Everyone we know will die one day. All of us are on a train and each one of us must get off eventually. Some disembark sooner and others later than us. We know it is only a matter of time yet it can catch one off-guard, like someone emerging in front of you out of nowhere. When one is mentally prepared, when one sits in expectation, in anticipation, it becomes relatively easy to prepare for even one's own death. This is rarely possible though. We may get the time to prepare ourselves if the loved one is terminally ill but it still doesn't mean we have come to terms with it. The one who is gone is gone, the ones left behind face the greatest challenge, greater than the death itself.

Various religions offer different perspectives. Some promise rebirth, others, heaven, some salvation and so on. All those are theories, their rewards of promises may inspire an individual to do the right thing while living, they may offer consolation to those left behind, such promises remain unproven claims though. Nothing beyond that. While on the topic of death and bereavement, I could quote you from Bhagavad Gita, from Bible, from Buddhist texts and the rest but I do not wish to offer you consolation, it is not my aim to introduce you to some philosophy. Instead, I just wish to share my own thoughts.

First and foremost, I want you to know that you will never be able to forget them. Any efforts you specifically direct at forgetting them will only make you miss them a great deal more. This is the harsh truth. And why should you forget them? Would you like to be forgotten when you are gone? When you begin to understand and accept the fact that the departed one has a permanent place in your heart, in your memory, in your life, a subtle healing begins. Do not force yourself to erase them from your memories, to exclude them, just let it be for a while, let Nature take its own course, let it settle. Bereavement heals one over time.
Grief has two key elements, namely, shock and denial. When you lose someone suddenly, to an accident for example, it takes much longer to get over the shock. Primarily because Nature did not grant you the time to get ready, to prepare yourself mentally. We slip into a state of denial and disbelief. That leads to an inner resistance. And such resistance leads to inner struggle, depression and melancholy.When you lose someone to a terminal illness or someone who battled for life for a long period before they passed away, the shock and denial is not any less, it is just of different type. Either way, it is traumatic. Imagine losing a limb, no matter how dexterous or perfect the artificial limb, it can never match the original. The void created by the death of someone can only ever be partially, imperfectly filled.

Acceptance is the key. I am not talking about accepting their death, I am referring to accepting the fact that it is painful for you, that it is hurting you, and that everything else is simply a theory. Allow natural healing to take place, allow your emotions to outpour, give yourself an outlet. You can't afford to have them bottled up, that will make you angry and eternally sad. If you allow Nature to help you absorb and accept the loss, you will find it easier to live without their physical presence. Just like happiness, like laughter and joy, sadness and sorrow are basic human emotions. These make us who we are. Do not curb them, be natural, be yourself.

What do you do when you are happy? You laugh. Is it not perfectly normal then to cry when you are sad, when you are missing their presence?

A realized Zen master was seen crying at the funeral of a man. Most were somewhat surprised, they thought the master had risen above the human emotions. It was an unusual sight to see a monk cry. A child went up to him, tugged at his robe and said, "Why are you crying?"

"He was my friend," the master said. "I'm crying because I'm sad."

If their thought makes you cry, just cry, let it out. Don't hold it back. Some may advise you to focus your attention elsewhere, to go out, to forget and move on etc. You can adopt any method, any philosophy, any theory that makes you feel stronger and better but the truth is, you can't fake your emotions, you can't lie to yourself. The greater the number of memories you have with the one you lost, the harder it is to forget them. No matter how intense the heat, puddles dry up quicker than ponds whereas oceans never. How long it will take you to move on depends on whether your store of memories is a small puddle or a gigantic ocean. You are going to miss them on their birthday, their death anniversary, on your own birthday, on other important events, on small incidents. This is natural. Let it be. You may as well make them and their memories a part of your life. After all, death is the other side of the life. You are standing at one end of the river and they on the other, you are on this side of the horizon, and they on the other.Horizons don't disappear nor the river of time ceases to flow.

Our emotions make us human, positively directed, they make us divine, misdirected, and they bring out the devil. Self-realization does not mean you lose all human emotions. To the contrary, you become so compassionate that you could cry at the slightest pain of others.

"O Ananda!" said Buddha, "parting from the loved ones is inevitable."

Courtesy: IYER

"Just as boyhood, youth & old age are attributed to the soul & the embodied soul continuously passes through these cycles, similarly the embodied soul passes into another body at death. The wise man does not get deluded & bewildered with such a change."
(Srimad Bhagavad Gita)

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